Croatia: Candles For The Unforgotten – 25 Years On

Vukovar remembers 25 Years since Battle of Vukovar Top R: President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic Bottom R: Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic Photo collage: Vecernji List

Vukovar remembers
25 Years since Battle of Vukovar
Top R: President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
Bottom R: Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic
Photo collage: Vecernji List

Friday 18 November 2016 more than a 120,000 people took part in the memorial march in the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of Vukovar to the Serb-led Yugoslav army and Serb rebel forces on 18 November 1991 after a three-month siege and slaughter of Croats and ethnic cleansing of Croats from the town. Across Croatia lit candles lined the streets to mark the day 25 years ago when rivers of innocent Croatian blood flowed under the knife of Serb aggressor and the destruction of Croatia reached the point of the senseless and brutal. More than 10,000 people were killed in the Croatian war (1991 – 1995) that started when Croatia declared independence from communist Yugoslavia, triggering a murderous rebellion by minority Serbs to whose aid swiftly came the communist Yugoslavia army seated in Belgrade Serbia.

Remembrance march in Vukovar 18 November 2016 Photo: Screenshot Jutarnji List

Remembrance march in Vukovar
18 November 2016
Photo: Screenshot Jutarnji List

The Battle of Vukovar began on 25 August 1991 when the Yugoslav Peoples’ Army (JNA) and Serb paramilitaries mounted an all-out attack on the town. About 1,800 Croatian defenders, including a large number of volunteers from throughout the country, defended the town for almost three months before being overrun by the besieging forces on 18 November 1991. About 4,000 people were killed in the battle.

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic lights candles at Vukovar Memorial Cemetery 18 November 2016 Photo: Marko Markonjic/Pixsell

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
lights candles at Vukovar Memorial Cemetery
18 November 2016
Photo: Marko Mrkonjic/Pixsell

JNA troops took wounded Croatian soldiers and civilians from the town hospital to a nearby pig farm at Ovcara and executed them in the night between 20 and 21 November 1991. Two hundred bodies have been exhumed from the Ovcara mass grave and 76 persons are still unaccounted for. The youngest victim was 16 years old and the oldest was 84. Among the victims was a woman seven months pregnant.
After the town’s occupation, several thousand Croatian prisoners of war and civilians were taken to concentration camps in Serbia, and about 22,000 Croats and other non-Serbs were expelled from the town.
A total of 309 persons from the Vukovar area are still listed as missing.

From Left: Hero, Dr Vesna Bosanac of Vukovar Hospital 1991 Cardinal Josip Bozanic, Archbishop of Zagreb, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, President of Croatia Ivan Penava, Mayor of Vukovar at Vukovar 18 November 2016 Photo:Marko Mrkonjic/Pixsell

From Left: Hero, Dr Vesna Bosanac of Vukovar Hospital 1991
Cardinal Josip Bozanic, Archbishop of Zagreb,
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, President of Croatia
Ivan Penava, Mayor of Vukovar
at Vukovar 18 November 2016
Photo:Marko Mrkonjic/Pixsell

On the same day, November 18, 2016, several thousand people gathered in the coastal Skabrnja on Friday to commemorate the massacre on 18 November 1991 of 58 Croatian civilians and 26 soldiers by Serb rebel forces led by Ratko Mladic (currently at the Hague, ICTY, for war crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina including Srebrenica genocide).

Remembrance march 2016 Skabrnja, Croatia Photo: HINA/ ml

Remembrance march 2016
Skabrnja, Croatia
Photo: HINA/ ml

The next day, November 19th, thousands march peacefully in remembrance of massacres and tortures of Croats in Borovo Naselje (next to Vukovar) and Nadin (next to Skarbrnje) when of 19 November 1991 Serb paramilitary forces made up of Croatian Serbs with the help of Yugoslav army seated in Belgrade, Serbia, stormed into these villages and as in Vukovar and Skabrnje the day before – massacred dozens of Croatian civilians, forcing others in their thousands to concentration camps both in Croatia and in Serbia. The same terror occurred in many other places, day by day. It was the time of Serb occupation of Croatian lands by means of murder, ethnic cleansing, rape, destruction… a reign of terror no one can forget and most cannot forgive – the pain is still too fresh and the crimes still unpunished. This is not a good report card for Croatian governments since at least 1998 when the last patch of Croatian Serb-occupied land was reintegrated into Croatia. There are still hundreds upon hundreds of massacred and murdered Croats on the missing list and Serb simply will not reveal where their remains are buried.

Stone monument to those massacred in Nadin on 19 November 1991 Photo: Vladimir Brkic

Stone monument to those massacred in Nadin
on 19 November 1991
Photo: Vladimir Brkic

 

Besides political rhetoric and declarations of condemnation Croatian governments have not really set a firm agenda intent on achieving the result of finding out where the remains of the missing people are and what had happened to them. This agenda should become the Croatian government’s demand to Serbia as part of Serbia’s negotiations to EU membership.

I hope that after 25 years we will receive an answer to the question where our people perished, and then find the perpetrators and try them for their crimes and punish them,” said in Borovo Naselje to HRT TV news Ljiljana Alvir, president of the Union of the Families of the Imprisoned and the Missing.

Ljiljana Alvir Photo:hrt.hr

Ljiljana Alvir
Photo:hrt.hr

She said that when talking about Borovo Naselje, people from Borovo village (near Vukovar), the Serbs who were there (in 1991) and those who still live there, and who participated in the crimes and celebrated their “victory” on 19 November 1991, know where the graves of the missing are. She added that threats are made against Borovo population and the population of similar places, if they reveal where the graves are, that something (nasty) will happen to them. Besides, she said, they also fear that they’ll be indicted of the crimes if they reveal burial places and, therefore, keep quiet.

Remembrance march Borovo Naselje 19 November 2016 Photo:Gordan Panic

Remembrance march
Borovo Naselje 19 November 2016
Photo:Gordan Panic

We expect concrete measures from the Croatian government and pressure against Serbia, especially via the European parliament and to show Serbia that, if it doesn’t solve the question of the missing, it would not enter the EU as member state…” Alvir added.
Perhaps the new Croatian government will achieve more for the road to the revelation of the graves of the missing by appointing the retired General Ante Gotovina as Special Adviser to Defence Minister Damir Krsticevic at a government meeting in Vukovar on Thursday 17 November2016. General Gotovina along with general Mladen Markac were acquitted in 2012 by the ICTY of war crimes charges relating to the 1995 Operation Storm which liberated much of Croatian territory of Serb occupation.

Ante Gotovina Photo: FaH/ Mario STRMOTIC /ds

Ante Gotovina
Photo: FaH/ Mario STRMOTIC /ds

I am very pleased that my great friend and our hero has accepted my proposal and this engagement. I am confident that the general, with his knowledge and competence, will make a considerable contribution to national security and the development of the Croatian Armed Forces. It is my desire to continue encouraging the engagement of former professional soldiers and officers who helped in creating our Homeland and who can certainly also help in maintaining national security,” Krsticevic said in his Facebook post. https://eblnews.com/news/croatia/general-gotovina-appointed-special-adviser-defence-minister-44830 Serbs and Serbia are not going to be happy about this appointment as they continue with their denial of war crimes committed in Croatia but then nothing short of strong measures by Croatia will ever do justice to the victims of Serb-aggression crimes in Croatia.

And that pressure against Serbia should become the focus of all Croatian citizens in the coming months and years, if needed. Remembering those that perished without a trace, year after year, loses its true meaning without real efforts being made in finding their graves and their destiny. And so, I too hope that the Croatian government will turn its political rhetoric about the need to find the missing and start applying some real measures and pressures to actually give that revelation a real prospect. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Reverence For Croatian Victims Of Serb Aggression: Vote Trashes Use Of Serbian Cyrillic In Vukovar

Bilingual signs with Serbian Cyrillic Removed from Vukovar's public buildings Photo: G. Panic

Bilingual signs with Serbian Cyrillic
Removed from Vukovar’s public buildings
Photo: G. Panic

 

This is a big move towards making solid steps for peace and healing of victims of Serb aggression and atrocities against Croats and non-Serbs in Vukovar in the early 1990’s. Those who oppose the “step” will call it by any other name except one that has even a tiny bit of positiveness in it; they will call it recist, denial of human rights, denial of minority rights and such.

The Vukovar City Council on Monday 17 August 2015 adopted amendments to the city Statute as per August 2014 Constitutional Court ruling that handed instructions to determine, within one year, in which of the city’s neighbourhoods bilingual signs can be displayed.
In the amendments the City Council of Vukovar voted constitute changes of the Statute of the city so that it no longer provides for the existence of bilingual signs, and Cyrillic alphabet, on the city’s and government institutions, squares and streets. The changes were adopted on the initiative of the Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ, the leading party in Vukovar local government. Serbian political representatives and the Councillors of the Social Democratic Party, the strongest party in the national government, unsuccessfully opposed the decision.
For a couple of years now much has happened in Vukovar with protests against bilingual (Croatian and Serbian) signs on public buildings and streets etc. Bilingual signs containing Serb Cyrillic were systematically pulled down, smashed and generally rejected by the Croats living in Vukovar. The Committee for the defence of Croatian Vukovar and their supporters, who represent the victims of Serb mass murders, rapes, destruction say that Cyrillic symbolically represents the utter terror and the horror inflicted upon innocent Croats in Vukovar as they went about seceding from communist Yugoslavia, seeking through democratic peaceful processes their freedom and democracy.

As was expected Serbia and some of Croatia’s antifascist riff-raff have protested against these amendments in Vukovar City Statute and have called them racist as well as denying human rights to minorities. Their protest also touches upon the decision in these amendments of the Statute of Vukovar to introduce charges of 3 Euro for any council document issued in Cyrillic at special request by an applicant.

 

Vukovar’s people who are behind the moves against the Serbian Cyrillic on public buildings, streets etc. and the councillors of the ruling coalition defended the amendments to the Statute which were proposed by city mayor Ivan Penava (HDZ) and all of these supporters continue seeking and calling for a new census. The last census, they say, was fraudulent and had many more Serbs who lived in Serbia, not Vukovar, recorded as living in Vukovar. Busloads of people from Serbia had come to Vukovar at time of census, falsely declared their residence there and then after went back to Serbia. All this in efforts to make-up the necessary minimum of 34% of population in a place needed to introduce bilingual signage on public buildings etc.! If that percentage is based on fraud – and all evidence argued and provided to the public so far seems to point that way – then those councillors in Vukovar that reject accepting that fraudulent census result as its benchmark for the introduction of bilingual signage are absolutely in the right!

 

There has been no information yet on how the government will react to the amendments made to Vukovar’s Statute, to the complaints made by the Serb Ethnic Minority Council and criticism coming out of Serbia calling the Vukovar council’s move racist, and in breach of human rights of minorities.

 

As regards Cyrillic signs in Vukovar the government has the possibility to directly enforce laws, bypassing the city statute, but the question is how much that would be in line with the ruling of the Constitutional Court instructing the government to propose to the parliament, within a period of one year, amendments to the Law on the Use of Languages and Scripts of Ethnic Minorities, including mechanisms for cases when local self-government bodies obstruct the right to bilingualism.

 

Along with the Serb Ethnic Minority Council of Vukovar, also dissatisfied with the amendments to the Vukovar City Statute is the Serb National Council (SNV), whose leaders on Monday described them as unconstitutional and unlawful and said that they would notify the relevant institutions in Croatia, as well as the EU, the Council of Europe and the UN.

 

They can write to EU and UN “till the cows come home” but they have no case! Vukovar council decision was in respect of human rights: those of the victims!

 

EU ParliamentBesides, Tove Ernst, European Commission Press Officer, reportedly said to Serbia’s news agency Tanjug and responding to a plea to the European Commission to comment on the abolition of the Cyrillic alphabet in Croatian city of Vukovar: “the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU bans discrimination based on minority status. However, the Commission has no overall authority with regard to minorities, especially in relation to the issue of recognition of the status of minorities, their self-determination and autonomy, and the use of regional or minority languages.” According to her, the Member States retain a general power to make decisions about minorities and the provisions of the Charter of fundamental rights concern the EU Member States only when they implement EU laws.
The Vukovar Council said it supported full application of the Constitutional Law on the Rights of Ethnic Minorities and the Law on the Use of Minority Languages and Scripts and warned that minority rights must not depend on daily politics. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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